Tourists and tailings in Utah

  When the federal government suggested hauling 3 million cubic yards of low-level radioactive sand down the main street of Blanding, Utah, the mayor and city council agreed. That came as a shock to the Department of Energy's project manager Don Leske, who expected to be urged to build a highway bypass. "When you go to a town and say we'd like to run 110,000 trucks through here in the next two or three years, the normal reaction is, well, a very strong "no'," he told the Salt Lake Tribune. Instead, the town council worried that a bypass would require an environmental impact statement, and that inevitable appeals would kill the tailings cleanup project and the jobs it would bring. Even worse, town residents feared that a bypass would give tourists a way around their town. Townspeople who fought for a bypass say their dust and traffic concerns were largely ignored. "Blanding is a fool's paradise and anyone who raises an environmental question is instantly branded a second-class citizen," says Gene Stevenson, president of the Concerned Citizens of San Juan County. The Department of Energy intends to consolidate radioactive tailings from a 40-year-old federal uranium mill in Monticello at the Umetco uranium mill south of Blanding.